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|Part I||Baroness Emmuska Orczy|
XII What Love Is
|Page 3 of 6||
He sank into a chair and rested his elbows on the table, burying his face in his hands. Blakeney went up to him and placed a kindly hand upon his shoulder.
"The difficult task, Armand," he said gently.
"Percy, cannot you release me? She saved my life. I have not thanked her yet."
"There will be time for thanks later, Armand. Just now over yonder the son of kings is being done to death by savage brutes."
"I would not hinder you if I stayed."
"God knows you have hindered us enough already."
"You say she saved your life ... then you were in danger ... Heron and his spies have been on your track your track leads to mine, and I have sworn to save the Dauphin from the hands of thieves.... A man in love, Armand, is a deadly danger among us.... Therefore at daybreak you must leave Paris with Hastings on your difficult and dangerous task."
"And if I refuse?" retorted Armand.
"My good fellow," said Blakeney earnestly, "in that admirable lexicon which the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel has compiled for itself there is no such word as refuse."
"But if I do refuse?" persisted the other.
"You would be offering a tainted name and tarnished honour to the woman you pretend to love."
"And you insist upon my obedience?"
"By the oath which I hold from you."
"But this is cruel--inhuman!"
"Honour, my good Armand, is often cruel and seldom human. He is a godlike taskmaster, and we who call ourselves men are all of us his slaves."
"The tyranny comes from you alone. You could release me an you would."
"And to gratify the selfish desire of immature passion, you would wish to see me jeopardise the life of those who place infinite trust in me."
"God knows how you have gained their allegiance, Blakeney. To me now you are selfish and callous."
"There is the difficult task you craved for, Armand," was all the answer that Blakeney made to the taunt--" to obey a leader whom you no longer trust."
But this Armand could not brook. He had spoken hotly, impetuously, smarting under the discipline which thwarted his desire, but his heart was loyal to the chief whom he had reverenced for so long.
"Forgive me, Percy," he said humbly; "I am distracted. I don't think I quite realised what I was saying. I trust you, of course ... implicitly ... and you need not even fear ... I shall not break my oath, though your orders now seem to me needlessly callous and selfish.... I will obey ... you need not be afraid."
"I was not afraid of that, my good fellow."
"Of course, you do not understand ... you cannot. To you, your honour, the task which you have set yourself, has been your only fetish.... Love in its true sense does not exist for you.... I see it now ... you do not know what it is to love."
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Baroness Emmuska Orczy
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